Freeze Rushes Fall

Everything worth picking before the freeze

Serious gardeners are weather watchers for good reason. In spring, I try to get beds weeded and crops sowed before predicted bouts of rain. During the summer, I watch for thunderstorms packing hail and damaging winds, and try to compensate for prolonged heat and drought with measured doses of precious water. During early fall, I listen to the weather seers very closely for frost/freeze predictions.

This year, we didn’t get any frosts before our hard freeze. My hillside thermometer registered 27 degrees F this morning, and by afternoon, my tender pineapple sage and other flowers were looking mighty depressed. I count myself lucky. The poor folks in the northeast got heavy, wet snow before their first frost — while many of their deciduous trees are still cloaked in leaves! Now that’s just cruel of Mother Nature, if you ask me.

Fortunately, the local meteorologists predicted this frigid turn of events well in advance, so I spent the past week running around at warp speed planting newly arrived perennials and trees (more on those another time), picking every vegetable worth picking, preparing my greenhouse for my potted plants that summer beneath my magnolia, and moving those plants to the greenhouse. Oh yes, I had to, ahem, remove the giant pokeweeds and trees growing in the beds surrounding the greenhouse too; otherwise, no light would have gotten to the plants within at all. Thanks to Wonder Spouse for his help accomplishing that strenuous task.

That basket full of delight in the photo above contained 34 Carmen Italian Bull’s Horn sweet peppers, 11 Apple sweet peppers, 2 Viva Italia paste tomatoes, 3 small slicer tomatoes, and 12 Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes. I’m missing those fresh tomatoes already!

Here’s a shot of the greenhouse after I straightened it up a bit inside, swept it out, and watered down the capillary cloth on the shelves and pavers on the floor:

Winter home ready for potted plants

Those of you who maintain greenhouses will likely notice that mine isn’t exactly clean. However, I keep it shut all summer, and the sun kills everything growing in there that’s not supposed to be there. Also, I don’t grow anything prissy enough to be offended by my untidiness.

Here are my potted plants enjoying their last few moments in their summer spot beneath my big evergreen Southern Magnolia:

Summer home for potted plants

The dense leaf canopy of this tree prevents heavy rains from damaging my potted plants, and its shade prevents the afternoon sun from frying them. They seem to like it there. One year, I found a Gray Treefrog living in a pot with one of the plants.

Here they are all moved into their winter quarters:

Settled in for winter

I’m only showing you one side, because at that point, the plants that summer in my front water feature were waiting for Wonder Spouse to come home and help me move them. Waterlogged pots are very heavy. When he arrived, we moved those pots; they now occupy the shelf and floor across from the shelf you see here.

The frigid temperatures were preceded by a day of wonderful rain. We got nine-tenths of an inch! I knew that rain was predicted, so I utilized the beautiful, sunny fall day before that to accomplish all these urgent garden chores. The insects also seemed to know what was coming. Honey and Carpenter Bees bustled in record numbers around my flowers as I worked. The pineapple sages and lantanas hummed with activity, and bees bumped into me more than once as we tried to occupy the same space simultaneously.

I also saw more butterflies that day than I had seen in several weeks. Numerous little skippers danced among the lantanas. Two Monarchs also couldn’t seem to get enough of those flowers. I urged them to fly south while the weather held, but they lingered even after dusk began to darken the landscape. Here’s hoping they made it safely out of the reach of the early freeze.

Monarch dines late despite approaching freeze

Next gardening chore: fall clean-up — oh goodie!


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